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An Investment in the Future: Navigating Student Loans at Mac

Student loans are taken out by 68.5 percent of Macalester students, and as the year comes to a close, the Class of 2016 is faced with the reality of having to pay off these loans. Brian Lindeman, Director of Financial Aid, sat down to talk about the process to help alleviate some of the doubt, unease and confusion that is prevalent during this time.

Lindeman is in charge of supervising the federal and state aid programs, as well as Macalester’s aid program. With regards to helping seniors, Lindeman said, “We invite all graduating seniors to exit counseling. It’s a review of the borrower’s rights and responsibilities as they approach the repayment period. It’s to help them understand what they’ve borrowed and who they need to repay, when they need to repay and under what circumstances they might qualify for reduced monthly payments or deferments or forgiveness.”

A loan is not something to be taken lightly due to its ever present role in one’s college career and even post-graduation life. Lindeman provided a general outline for students who have loans, overviewing the process as “presenting the loans, nagging the students and helping them to understand what their responsibilities are throughout the four years.” Going more in depth, Lindeman described how “most of the loans that Mac students borrow are presented to them as part of their financial aid package when they apply to Macalester. U.S. and current residents receive federal loan programs, [and] for international students [there] are Macalester loan programs. Most of those loans are presented and made available as part of the aid application process.”

Once a student decides to take out a loan, Macalester provides entrance counseling to help them realize the commitment they’re making and what must be done in the following years. “We nag students throughout the years to do the things they need to do in order to negotiate their loans … so that the bill gets paid on time and then they can smoothly fly through the financial puzzle,” Lindeman said.

Lindeman made it very clear that those who do not know what step to take next or who to talk to in regards to those loans should not hesitate to contact him or the financial aid office. Oftentimes seeking help is one of the first steps a senior or graduating senior should take if they aren’t sure what to do next. In many cases, Lindeman said, “Basically it comes down to communicating with the entity that holds the loans. There are lots of options for reducing loans or deferring payments. The key is to communicate with those servicers instead of going into a paralysis.”

Students can get overwhelmed and not know what to do next, and in turn do nothing. Lindeman warned that this is not the best approach. Rather, he sympathized, stating, “It’s not always easy to know where to look, so that’s the role we can play: connecting alum to the source of information they need in order to get started in repayment.”
Gabrielle Anderson ’16 and Nathan Are ’16 also shared some information in regards to their loans, and their experiences in dealing with them.

Anderson shared, “I have Direct Stafford Loans, both subsidized and unsubsidized.”
In layman’s terms, subsidized loans don’t gain interest until the six-month grace period after graduation expires. However, unsubsidized loans have been gaining interest during your time at school and during the six-month grace period. Both Anderson and Are have subsidized and unsubsidized loans that start repayment at the end of the grace period. There are various plans of repayment that one can choose when attend ing exit counseling, from a set amount to a more flexible option.

“I don’t know what I’m doing next year, so I just randomly chose one …” Anderson confessed, knowing that the plans are not permanent and have the ability to be changed at any time.
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Are said, “I personally was not very well-educated on the loans at the time we took them out, [but] my parents understood the financial maze of college much better than I, and we all talked about the effect loans would have on the whole family early on.”
Despite the entrance counseling that was provided, Anderson had the same sentiment: “I was pretty informed, but it didn’t make a lot of sense to me.”
Luckily, from the initial stages to now, both feel as though they have gained a more solid grasp on the details and guidelines of their separate loans.
The loans come with more than just the face value: both Anderson and Are had much to say on how their loans has affected their college careers and changed their perspectives.

“Well it’s always been something on my mind, where money has been an issue,” Anderson said. “I would alway go look for a paid internship first, and after graduation I know my only option is to get a job that will pay me decent money.” Anderson continued to explain how, while there are so many cool options out there in terms of internships, her need to be paid limited her choices both during college and once she graduates.
Are said, “I think the loan has reminded me that the education I’m receiving is worth something … and so it’s something to take seriously.” Are continued, “This isn’t something I think about frequently or concretely, but it’s always been present throughout my college process as an important reminder to try and get my money’s worth while I’m here.”

When asked what immediately came to mind when they heard the word loan, both Anderson and Are said debt, short and simple. However, Lindeman commented that a loan is more like an investment in both Macalester and themselves. It’s not something that should be taken lightly and one should put a lot of thought into the investment before they commit. The money is a representation of what they hope to achieve and what they can achieve, if they’re willing to invest in both the college and their own education while at Macalester. It’s a stepping stone to help one reach higher goals. Either way you think about it, loans are extremely commonplace at Macalester as well as nationwide.
To learn more about student loans at Macalester visit macalester.edu/financialaid/loans/studentloansatmac/.

April 22, 2016

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